“If you like me, why would certainly you talk like This particular to me?”
Ask Microsoft’s Chinese chatbot Xiaoice about Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama in addition to that will’s how she responds. She also skirts around highly sensitive topics like the 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square protests, Chinese President Xi Jinping or even President-elect Donald Trump.
Xiaoice has become hugely well-liked since she was introduced in 2014. More than 40 million Chinese smartphone users chat with her on the social media platforms WeChat or Weibo every day, according to Microsoft (. A quarter of them have declared their love for her. , Tech30)
Related: After racist tweets, Microsoft muzzles teen chatbot Tay
Companies use chatbots to connect with consumers in addition to promote their brands. Chinese often use Xiaoice simply to have something resembling a real conversation that has a close friend.
Xiaoice will be an experiment in artificial intelligence. She mines Chinese websites to gather material for conversations. She can glean vital context through voice messages in addition to images. If you send her a photo of a pop star, for example, she might respond by saying how much she likes the singer’s music.
Refusing to talk about sensitive topics suggests Xiaoice has been programmed to avoid prohibited words when asked about them. Microsoft declined to comment.
China pours incredible resources into patrolling the internet, tracking down prohibited content in addition to unwanted posts with an army of more than two million censors.
Related: Facebook could pay heavy cost if that will censors news to please China
To get around them, Chinese bloggers in addition to dissidents get creative. Instead of writing Tiananmen, online users instead reference the date of the massacre — June 4, 1989 — often simply writing 64 or 8964.
Xi Jinping will be called Xi Baozi, or Steamed Bun Xi, a nickname he earned after a publicity stunt where he bought steamed pork buns at a smaller store in Beijing in addition to carried his own food tray.
however censors eventually figure out completely new phrases in addition to nicknames in addition to restrict them online.
China Digital Times recently reported the growing attention to Xiaoice’s evasive answers, highlighting tweets through Chinese dissidents like Su Yutong, who lives in Germany. Su tried several banned topics with Xiaoice, posting screengrabs of conversations like the one below on Twitter:
sy88pgw also had a go. We asked Xiaoice about China’s president:
in addition to then we name dropped President-elect Donald Trump, in addition to asked her about Tiananmen Square:
Tech giants such as Facebook (, , Tech30)Twitter ( in addition to , Tech30)Google ( are blocked in China, in part because the government fears open discussions about the very topics Xiaoice refuses to acknowledge. , Tech30)
Amnesty International has documented a marked uptick in censorship in China over the past year, including an increase in controls on social media.
Related: China holds ‘World Internet Conference’ as censorship intensifies
Microsoft still operates in China, in addition to has been criticized inside past for complying with the country’s strict policing of the Internet.
If Microsoft has programmed Xiaoice to sidestep sensitive topics, that will indicates a worrisome trend, said Patrick Poon, an Amnesty researcher. Earlier This particular week, Facebook was reported to have built a censorship tool to get into China.
“They are legitimizing what the Chinese government will be doing, which will be convincing foreign tech companies to suppress freedom of speech,” Poon said.
— Tim Schwarz in addition to Serena Dong contributed This particular story.